Starting today, I begin blogging twice per week. It’s one of a series of measures I’m taking to share more with my audience. We’ll feature Q&A’s with experts, a new column from our creative director, video clips, and more! To kick it off, I’ve decided to feature someone I speak of often. He’s been included on dozens of #Strella blog posts, he’s the most brilliant marketer I know, and he’s someone I respect because he’s always going to tell you the truth (especially when it’s not what you want to hear!). We share several clients – and dozens of past clients – in our ten-year relationship. You’ve probably figured out that I’m talking about the one and only, John Webster.
John’s been working diligently to help organizations generate more qualified leads – and convert those leads to customers. It’s only fitting that we talk about this process, which some call a marketing funnel or sales funnel. If you’re curious about how you can build a marketing funnel for your organization, check out this Q&A with John.
What exactly is a marketing funnel and what’s its advantage to an organization?
Recently, I was reading 13 Things You Forgot about Sales. It's an easy read and a great reminder about the basics of sales. In this ‘older’ sales book (2010), the author took one chapter to discuss sales funnels. What I’ve learned is that the funnel is timeless. It boils down to these basic components: Awareness, Interest, Decision, Action. The author was coaching sales professionals to nurture leads so they can eventually close a sale.
Somehow, over the years, we have progressed with our marketing technology and we’ve lost some of the basics of sales and marketing in that process. Whether it is in-person or online, the process of making a sale is the same. A marketing funnel is an intentional series of steps an organization will take to move a prospect through a journey that will hopefully lead to a sale.
I have heard the phrase, "A confused buyer is a no." On that account, without a funnel, organizations leave too much up to the consumer. People like to be led and if you are not leading prospects, you are losing customers.
The greatest benefit of a marketing funnel is the ability to identify problem areas of an organization and know where to make corrections.
What are the elements an organization needs to create a funnel?
There are four steps: Awareness, Interest, Decision, and Action.
Awareness. The first part of every funnel is awareness. This can take many forms: social media, email marketing, direct mail, traditional media (TV, Radio, Billboard advertising) and personal sales calls. And more often than not, the first place people make their pit stop at is at Marketing Heaven, a website that provides you with likes and shares on your social media accounts.
No matter the tool used to build awareness for your organization, the key is ensuring it can be tracked and it contains a simple next step.
Interest. Now that someone has shown an interest, we have an opportunity to build rapport and demonstrate value. At this stage, an interested person should be taken to a specific web page or social media page that will reinforce the message they reacted to. The absolute best way to accomplish this goal is through video. People love video, people feel connected to people in videos, people start to trust those in the video and it’s a great way to SHOW the value your organization provides. If the organization isn't comfortable with video, it can create another offering such as an e-book, an infographic or a DIY guide on a specific topic.
Decision. When a prospect is at this level, they are ready to make some choices. They have already chosen that they are interested, on an emotional level, because they’ve spent some serious time with your organization. At this stage, the organization should reinforce its benefits and ask the prospect to take another step in the relationship – and get personal. Now it’s time to schedule with the prospect. This can take many forms such as a webinar, a meeting, a phone call or live seminar. Note: If the organization sells digital products or is an e-commerce business, this would be a good time to entice a decision with a free trial or limited offer.
Action. A warm lead will remain a warm lead until they choose to buy. An organization may find that some prospects linger, at this step. This is an opportunity to gather more information, demonstrate value and overcome objections. The beauty of a lead, at this stage, is the amount of information we’ve captured in this process that we can use to continually nurture the prospect until they ultimately say YES or NO (opt-out).
Can you think of any organizations that would benefit the most from a funnel? The least?
I can't think of an organization that would not benefit from a funnel. On the surface, funnels may resemble a used car salesperson. However, it’s clear that funnels are a process for helping potential customers make an informed decision. Characteristics of organizations that benefit the most from funnels include: those who have a need to schedule more appointments, organizations that have a large volume of website traffic with little or no qualified leads and those who have a clearly-defined traditional sales process. I would caution not to make the assumption that higher-end products and services need more of a ‘hands-on’ approach. Marketing funnels work well for high-ticket items.
While every organization can benefit from a marketing funnel, not every organization is ready for a marketing funnel. Characteristics of organizations that are not ready for a marketing funnel include: Those who have not distinctly defined their ideal buyer, organizations who struggle to explain the benefit of their offerings and those who have no sales process. In this instance, they will need to do some upfront work to get the most out of a funnel. If they are open to change, however, they can see dramatic improvements because their processes will be developed with funnels at the forefront.
What’s the first thing an organization should do to develop a marketing funnel?
The most critical component of a marketing funnel is the value the organization offers. This sounds all 'woo woo,' theoretically. But, knowing why people buy is the keystone of a successful funnel. Professional marketers who truly understand funnels allow the technology to do the work while they spend 80% of their time working on an organization's offering. Remember, marketing is not about technology. It’s not about a website or software. Marketing is the message.